Ani Cordero is a musician who has never been afraid to make a statement against injustice. She has played in Pistolera, Os Mutantes, Cordero, and numerous other projects. Recently, she chatted with Glide about her new album El Machete, the empowerment of women, and the foundation she founded to help Puerto Rican musicians after Hurricane Maria.
Glide Magazine: How does the new album compare to previous albums you’ve done?
Ani Cordero: Sonically or thematically?
Sonically, it’s a much more modern production and more pop. It’s the first time I’ve worked with a modern producer/beatmaker. I worked on this album with Pablo San Martin, a Chilean-French producer. That was a new experience and a new approach to the studio for me rather than the indie rock approach of going in with a band and doing basic tracks. It was a more hip-hop style production. Thematically, I’m always reacting to what’s happening in my life and my world. This album, I was writing it in the context of post Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico reality and in the political reality of the U.S., where things have gotten really dark. I’ve definitely embraced my anger. I process my anger with those events in some of these songs. It gives it a little bit of a harder edge in that way.
You’ve talked about how “Pa’ Poder Vivir” is an important song. Why is it such an important song for you?
It’s an important song to me because it’s confronting my feelings about the frustrations of feeling limited by society because of my gender and needing to reconstruct society in order to adjust to the basic things I want to do and have the basic freedom of a human being that I want to have. A lot of things that people maybe take for granted, like basic safety. Not fearing for your life just because of your gender. Or being able to go after the career that you want to do. This is still a struggle. For me, it was really powerful to work on that song and healing for me. I intentionally sought out strong women to sing on the choruses with me, including Renee Goust, and Macha Colon has a feature on it and a bunch of my other badass girlfriends who came into the studio. It was literally a spiritual experience to sing “Lucha!” with them. I grew up in a situation where I spent the summers locked inside the house in Puerto Rico because my grandmother was too afraid to let us go across the street to the park. Or I was not allowed to go anywhere unless I could go with my brother. If he didn’t want to go, I didn’t get to go. That’s automatically putting limits on the things you can do and the freedom that you feel.
You started the organization Puerto Rican Musicians and Artists (PRIMA). What does the organization do, and why was it something you felt you needed to do?
After the hurricane, everyone in the diaspora wanted to know how we could be helping our family and friends on the island. In talking to people through WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it seemed like there were organizations who were helping the children and the elderly, people who had extreme medical conditions, all of those demographics had people who were helping them. The musicians in particular didn’t have any support network to reach out to, especially the independent musicians who don’t belong to a union. For example, if they’re not a jazz musician or a traditional musician and couldn’t be part of a union, they were left out. We were hearing reports that people had 40 dollars in the bank and no food. We decided that the best way as musicians to help was to help other musicians and to help that musical community. We all know how close to the edge musicians and artists live. When your gigs are canceled and your side hustle is closed – a lot of people work in restaurants on the side – it’s a pretty dramatic problem. My co-founder from Buscabulla and I and several close friends, we leveraged our press contacts to bring visibility and to launch this non-profit quickly with the fiscal sponsorship of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre. We were able to use our own contacts and reputations. There’s a lot of shady non-profit popping up. People didn’t know who to trust. We were basically leveraging people’s trust in us and my name and reputation, and Buscabulla’s reputation for being people that are noble. We can promise you that the money is going directly to the musicians – 100 percent. That’s what we did. We were able to give emergency grants within a month of the hurricane. We gave out over sixty grand to musicians and artists on the island. I feel very proud of that. Since then we’ve been continuing to offer support on the island. The emergency was the emergency. Now the longer term goal is to continue to sustain and nurture the community of musicians who want to stay on the island and make it easier for them to pursue music without having to leave the island. We do showcases every year in New York City timed with the LAMC and the Afro-Latino Fest, where there’s this convergence of industry and media. We bring musicians in from the island to showcase their new work. In general we’re looking to increase the bridges between the diaspora musicians and the island-based musicians so that we can create more mutual support. Everybody wants to be able to have a strong music community. It’s such an important part of life especially in Puerto Rico. You see it in the protests. There’s not an event in Puerto Rico without music. They say that out of every bad situation, something good can come from it. For me this is one of the most beautiful and moving things to come out of the hurricane – the community that we’re building with PRIMA.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I would be an immigration attorney. I still plan to live to 120 and be a painter one day when I can’t play the drums or the guitar anymore.
To learn more about PRIMA, or to donate to the fund, visit https://www.primafund.org/. El Machete (Panapén Records) will be available everywhere on September 20.